Diabetes study shows that the onset of child diabetes can be postponed

Professor Vallo Tillmann. Photo by Katre Tatrik
Professor Vallo Tillmann. Photo by Katre Tatrik

In future, skilful regulation of the intestinal microflora may help to postpone the onset of type 1 diabetes in children.

Extensive research in which the Children’s Clinic of Tartu University Hospital has participated over the recent half a century reveals the effect of intestinal microbes on the development of type 1 diabetes.

This means that a food supplement or yoghurt enriched with a mix of certain microbes or self-produced substances could be developed for children with high genetic risk. Such microbes or substances should be in a harmless form for the child, yet preserve their immune system-stimulating effect.

Head of the Children’s Clinic of Tartu University Hospital, Professor Vallo Tillmann believes that although finding an efficient and harmless combination of bacteria for disease prevention is not easy, it is possible.

The idea occurred to the scientists after they had compared newborns of three countries in the course of the long-term DIABIMMUNE study and found that the immune system of the newborns in Karelia was more mature and better developed than that of infants in Estonia and Finland. The study also confirmed that the richness and diversity of intestinal bacteria provides better protection against type 1 diabetes.

It was also found that in Karelian children’s intestines there were more of the Escherichia coli bacteria that effectively stimulate immune system. These bacteria have been shown – at least in mice – to be able to slow down the onset of type 1 diabetes.

This information is particularly important now that increasingly more children develop type 1 diabetes at an increasingly younger age. Paediatricians are also worried about the growing occurrence of allergies, about which the allergy study of children participating in the DIABIMMUNE survey also revealed new information.

Specifically, it was discovered that birthplace near the forest predicts higher resistance to allergies. Children, whose birthplace was surrounded with more forest and grasslands in a two to five kilometre radius, were less prone to developing allergies.

“This relation is truly interesting and probably reveals through the effect of the environmental microbiome or collection of microbes on the human skin microflora, in which the Protebacteria microbes have a significant role,” said Tillmann. The number of microbe species is bigger where the number of different plant and animal species is bigger, in the middle of green nature.

Read more in ERR Novaator
Suur diabeediuuring näitab, et laste suhkruhaiguse avaldumist on võimalik edasi lükata” (in Estonian)

Sünnikodu metsaääres ennustab paremat vastupanu allergiatele”  (in Estonian)

Additional information: Vallo Tillmann, Head of UT Children’s Clinic, professor in paediatrics, 731 9500, vallo.tillmann@ut.ee